Technoscience / Ecomateriality / Literature

Author Archives: Cathy Li

1 – Side Presentation

December 3rd, 2014 | Posted by Cathy Li in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on 1 – Side Presentation)


Technology in the larger context

November 14th, 2014 | Posted by Cathy Li in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Technology in the larger context)

Information technology might strike us as something intangible and the theory of which only computer scientists and coders can grasp. However, neither the intangibility nor exclusive intelligibility is the case here. True that one must have some knowledge about computer science to construct and understand computer architecture, that is not the whole picture of the generation, transmission and reception of information. The physical reality of information science has been neglected by the public because of its complexity and, one might say, the inconvenient truth behind it.

The core of the physical make-up of information devices, i.e. computers and cellphones, comes from the earth. I may sound like Mr. Obvious right now but this piece of fact has been dismissed/ignored by the public because it is trivial compared to the awe that can be created out of the earth’s product. In other words, the short term gain of conveniency and impressionability outweighs the long term benefit of resource sustainability. Luckily silicon is the second most abundant elements on/in earth and it happens to be the semiconducting element that creates all the awes of information technology. Even though we are not close to depleting all the metals as to depleting crude oil and coal, Jussi Parikka was grave about the reality: “Too often, the extraction of Earth has simultaneously poisoned it, for example, the coltan (columbite-tantalite) mines in Congo, which have fueled bloody wars there.” Industrialization has done this – sucking all the resource out of the earth and turning them into disorganized energy form called heat – at an increasing speed for the past hundreds of years. So information reform, as a natural part of scientific revolution, requires the same process of extracting from the earth and produces the same result of poisoning the earth. Is it too late to stop?

Well, we won’t stop because we are humans who try to profit from everything. One way to look at the issue is that technology reformers have shrunk the size of our devices that require less resource to produce. Also, techno innovators like the Berlin-based artist Martin Howse seeks alternative ways to program computer such as utilizing the byproduct of the nature. “His latest project,” introduced by Motherboard, “Earthboo, boots computers from the naturally-occurring electricity from the earthm, which literally codes the computer. What appears on the screen is actually art.” (Sayej) Projects as such might seem like a freelancer’s recreational product that has no practical use whatsoever. But utilizing what is present, i.e. solar power, geothermal energy, magnetic field etc., will outlast the short-sighted way of consuming energy. The ideology of environmental sustainability should be applied in all subjects of study and industries including information technology. The question we face is not “to be, or not to be” (or is it?), but “to live harmoniously within the environment (and live long), or to have total control over the environment (and die young).”

Work cited:

Parikka, Jussi. “The Geology of Media.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 11 Oct. 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <>.

Sayej, Nadja. “Programming Computers with Dirt: Earthboot Powers PCs with Geological Energy.” Motherboard. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <>.

Some thoughts on Google Glass – Cathy

November 12th, 2014 | Posted by Cathy Li in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Some thoughts on Google Glass – Cathy)

One week no tech:





How does thinking about a week without technology help us reflect on technology?

For some people, one week without technology makes life more difficult because they are used to live with it. They might heavily rely technology to do their job, such as programmers, or they might socialize a lot online rather than in real life. So technology also makes people lazy and sometimes unable to finish basic tasks in our life (without it).

For others, one week without technology makes life simple as their life probably does not involve much technology. Not to mention learning to use technology can also be exhausting and in that case, people are catching up with the technology rather than making technology suit our needs.


One week without facebook massaging:



A digress to Oatmeal on Net Neutrality:

Ebocloud response

November 7th, 2014 | Posted by Cathy Li in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Ebocloud response)

One of the interesting questions Rick Moss’ Ebocloud provoked was the boundary of the technology development and its encroachment on our identity. Radu, the bold and possibly mad scientist, proposed the mapping of human’s entire neural circuitry and predicted that science can predict how we love and how we should love just as how science has been used to predict the outcome of a chemistry experiment. In the conversation between Radu and Camilla (Part2, Chapter 10), the tension between the ever-aggrandizing scheme of scientifying ourselves (the humanity) and the resistance of such attack plus the self-preserving sentiment very much embodies the heat debate in the ethics of science today.

The undertone of Camilla basically coincides with the reaction from the crowd because of the fear of self-identity effaced by technology. To alleviate such fear, we need to delve deeper into the concept of self-identity, which is nothing but another product of natural evolution that we cannot fully control. It must be admitted, however, such fear cannot be completely eradicated because it also serves its purpose to not-so-kindly remind us (and hopefully people like Radu) of deleting all the bad characteristics of humans (e.g. seven sins) is also an act of deleting a part of humanity.


Moss, Rick. Ebocloud. New Orleans: Aquieous, 2013. Print.

Final Project abstract

October 31st, 2014 | Posted by Cathy Li in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Final Project abstract)

In this paper, we will explore the potential educational values residing in digital humanities, specifically the “Art Games” within the video games genre, which itself contains a huge potential in the field of education. We shall start by examining how art games can be utilized in understanding literature, such as Neuromancer, Flatland, and Daytripper. Literature as such usually serve as milestones in human imagination and the doors to the popularization of novel ideas in science, mathematics and philosophy. Meanwhile, the multimedia aspects of video games enables the reader to capture the comprehensiveness and the depth of literature, which is hard for mono-facet media representations, such as simple texts, simple images and videos, to achieve. Some generic examples of art games include Conway’s The Game of Life, Fex, and numerous remakes of literature and movies. This point will be further explicated by video annotation of the trailers of the games. The idea can be furthered by pointing out that teaching kids how to code games has also been popular and effective in understanding computer science. This will foster a new generation capable of writing and analyzing codes and creating and enriching the computer network industry. Here I will insert the Conway’s Game of Life and explaining the python code of a simple version of the Game.


Bibliography (possible):

Berry, David M.. Understanding Digital Humanities. Gordonsville, VA, USA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 31 October 2014.

Bittanti, Matteo, and Domenico Quaranta. Gamescenes: Art in the Age of Videogames. Milano: Johan & Levi, 2006. Print.

Bogost, Ian. How to Do Things with Videogames. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2011. Print.

Jones, Steven E. The Emergence of the Digital Humanities. New York: Routledge, 2014. Print.


Oculus Rift Project – Pooja & Cathy

October 29th, 2014 | Posted by Cathy Li in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Oculus Rift Project – Pooja & Cathy)

E-lit critique (general)

October 29th, 2014 | Posted by Cathy Li in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on E-lit critique (general))

We create literature and we flourish in it. In literature, our language never sets boundary for our imagination or limit for the superfluity of emotions. The power of logical and empathizing language in literature has connected each one of us closer than ever in novels, biographies, and scientific literatures. The electronic literature (e-lit), blooming since the end of last century due to the maturity of information technology, however, has opened another door to the verbal and other forms of expression of human thoughts and emotions. The emergence of such form of literature has pushed the boundary of what we would call “literature”, and it has brought us numerous benefits of reading that traditional literature cannot offer.

In contrasts to what people commonly think of e-lit as a digitized version of literature printed out on the paper, e-lit exists in its own inclusive form. Katherine Hayles commented that e-lit must be “‘digital born’, a first-generation digital object created on a computer and (usually) meant to be read on a computer” (3). So if the piece of literature on your computer can be printed out without losing any feature of the original piece, it cannot be called e-lit. Hayles, in the same passage, quoted the Electronic Literature Organization’s formulation: “work with an important literary aspect that takes advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-along or networked computer.” (3) This explanation is particularly interesting because it not only points out that the media that present e-lit must be computer instead of papers, but the fact that the definition of e-lit cannot be pinned down metaphysically or timelessly, because it depends on the computer in our discussion. The update of information technology, which includes the hardware that produce, process and present the information, is in fact exponential. With each update of the information technology, the technological media seep into e-lit and change it. From the traditional and stick-to-the-paper-style Portable Document Format (PDF) that can be opened by Adobe Reader, to Electronic Publication (EPUB) that allows the reader to keep track of the reading speed, and from simple structured website City Stories by J. R. Carpenter, to the comprehensive interactive math learning website Mathigon, our digital reading experience has updated from both the increasing complexity of writers’ intention and the exponential tech-boosting from the technicians’ innovation.

The sudden injection of e-lite questions the never-changed definition of the word “literature”, and how e-lit sits with the traditional form of literature that we have been used to for hundreds of years. For example, think about what newspaper can do when it present news of massive deaths from a natural disaster or a war. The editor might deliberately insert words such as “heart-breaking”, “catastrophic”, “grievous” etc.; or at most a poet might write lines and lines to condole with the deaths and try to make the readers sympathetic. However, Death Moves It Forward, a website created by Jody Zellen, combines the written/pictorial representation and the vocal representation of the death news during the war (i.e. from the newspapers and the radio) with a simple Flash in which everything moves in a quick and erratic fashion. The combination of visual and auditory description impacts the reader as multiple sources of information to evoke the reader’s past experience and create a sense of chaos, which is what we usually feel when we hear death news of someone close to us. This piece of literature shakes the reader in a way that words on paper can never do, simply because it stimulates multiple senses we possess. It seems like e-lit embarks on an approach, which the traditional literature cannot substitute, to express authors’ intentionality and emotions.

Nevertheless, scholars have attempted to give out the characteristics e-lit, from which, I think, hints us in how to decide whether a piece of work is e-lit or not. Noah Wardrip-Fruin, an associated professor in the computer science department of University of California, Santa Cruz, says that “data, process, interactions, surface, and context” (Gould) are the paradigms of e-lit reading. All these paradigms of the e-lit requires the development of computer science, wherein it is the computer scientists who contribute, rather than the traditional writer. Wardrip alleged “Writers innovate on the surface level, on the reading words level – while computer scientists innovate at the process level, the algorithm level, perhaps without words at all.” (Simanowski 36) Here, the difference of e-lit and traditional literature resides not in how it affects us emotionally but the underlying creation processes. Hayles also argues that in e-lit, “human-only language and machine-readable code are performed as interpenetrating linguistic realms, thus making visible on the screenic surface a condition intrinsic to all electronic textuality, namely the intermediating dynamics between human-only languages and machine-readable code.” (21) This might hard to understand at the beginning but easy from the view point of a computer scientist. Four of the five elements, if not all of them, must be created by computer programs: data – possibly generated by the user but read and processed by codes, process – what codes do to transform input to output, interactions – how programs receive information from the reader and respond correspondingly, surface – mostly contributed from the writer but the digital representation still requiring technical support, and context – an immersive environment of reading created by “WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus and Pointers)” (Simanowski 43) which necessarily implies the presence of the computer. Particularly, the context computer programs provide are most well utilized paradigm and differentiates the traditional literature and e-lit, as it evokes multiple senses of the reader or different functions of the same sense. For example, in City Stories, Carpenter embedded the poem describing the living environment of a “Wohngemeinschaft”1 in a drawn flat with multiple windows that the reader can click on (i.e. interaction as well) to display a particular section of the poem. This helps the reader to actually visualize the quarreling couple upstairs and the view of all the linens hung-up… The unique features of clicking everywhere to get contextualized gives the reader the opportunity to explore the literature rather than passively receive all the information from the author.

Then what this particular experience – e-lit provides us with something that traditional literature does not – tell us, is captivating. The lengthy history of literature, associated mostly, if not only, with human language, modestly salutes the incredible capacity of human language that captures our imagination and emotion; but it has finally reached its limitation, or even its impossibility, achievable by electronic literature. The fact that e-lit echoes more emotions in the reader by evoking their other senses implies the imperfection of our language because there is a part of us that it cannot reach, but a song or an image or a video or a particular smell can easily capture. True that e-lit is created by machine language and simplistic axioms, but its effects, somehow possibly, recalls a part of us that cannot be reduced to language or, what really is humanity.



1. Wohngemeinschaft: apartment-sharing-community


Work cited:

Gould, Amanda. “A Bibliographic Overview of Electronic Literature.” Electronic Literature Directory. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.

Hayles, Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame, Ind.: U of Notre Dame, 2008. Print.

Simanowski, Roberto and Jörgen Schäfer. Reading Moving Letters: Digital Literature in Research and Teaching : A Handbook. Ed. Peter Genddlla. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag ;, 2010. Print.


Daytripper – Graphic Novel annotation

October 18th, 2014 | Posted by Cathy Li in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Daytripper is an amazing piece of art. There are many things that we can explore including the art effect of using water color and the existentialist’s theme and what not.

One important thing that impacts me greatly after annotating the graphic novel is that the graphic novel does a better job in expressing emotions that cannot be expressed as words. Some of the annotations I chose would appear funny if they were depicted verbally. Most prominently, quietness is the most well depicted scenario among all the ineffable situations, which leaves the reader plentiful room for personal interpretation. However, this will at the same time unlikely let the reader misinterpret the emotion (unless the creator sucks at drawing) because the readers can absorb other information from the frame or the adjacent frames. A smile, a frown or a distant frame of what is happening tips the reader off about the emotion related to the story, while vividly revokes the reader’s past experience. This is the power of graphic novel (and manga) that enables it to surpass a text-based novel. When someone is reading a graphic novel, the story happens right in front of the reader’s eyes, not in the back of her mind. Lots of things go on without explaining in a graphic novel, just as life goes on without anyone explaining the details. This perk leaves the reader a realistic representation of a life story. My annotations will explicate this further.

The first chapter:


The last scene of the second chapter:


After his wife received the message that her husband is dead in chapter 8:


Chapter 9, after the protagonist wakes up from a long dream:4

Some words on data

October 10th, 2014 | Posted by Cathy Li in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Some words on data)

The internet should always be related to quantified data tracking. As for why the internet should be accounted for this, we need to examine why we are quantified tracked in the first place. Reading tracking and other types of tracking should date back to the first human who wrote/drew something down. However, the revolution that led to a significant amount of quantification of matter is the science/technology/information revolution that has been taking place for more than 200 years. Quantifying things enables human to better control the environment and reverse the advantage-disadvantage relation between us and the environment. For example, it is much more reliable for engineers to design in AutoCad instead of drawing on paper. Quantification is useful and that’s why we are doing it. So back to the topic of why we are being quantified tracked, we now clearly see that the companies like Google and Facebook can very well utilize the data that we put in and generate what they need in order to keep the company running. It is the internet that delivers our information to the “Siren Servers”. Hence, the quantified tracking must be related to the internet. Exceptions are in cases where the data generated by the person is also used by the person himself/herself (people who want to know how many words exactly he/she reads in an hour) but those cases don’t concern our privacy and reality alteration talks.

Using a personalized device is not completely culpable just from the stance that we have all used it and enjoyed it to some extent. The practice makes us happy and keep using the personalized product, which is a win-win situation from which any human-based project is expected. However, concerns are raised because people worry that their privacy are violated and their understanding of the world is altered by the internet. Well, true that Google delivers what we want to see and Facebook never tells us who just unfriended us, it is also true that it is not practical to ask for complete truth or all facts from the internet because it is afterall a human-based project. The internet only delivers truths reducible axiomatically and the axioms would still come from us. When answering questions like “What is the most popular icecream on earth?”, the internet is only able to deliver the answer that satisfies our intellectual curiosity and provides us with closure, because there is not even an answer outside interenet. If someone has conducted a global survey on such question and did not keep the result secret, then Google should be able to find that. That’s what Google does, it gathers data but it does not generates data from nothing.

And this brings back to the discussion of the materiality of data. Well, in fact, there is a huge problem of the “material versus immaterial” language but we can continue the discussion without overthrowing the theme. We consider data as ‘0’s and ‘1’s and if anyone asks further what ‘0’s and ‘1’s are, he/she doesn’t want an easy answer. The method of obtaining binaries is to set a boundary and say what’s on one side is ‘0’ and the other ‘1’. In computer systems, the boundary is usually a voltage reading; in “pass/fail” classes, the boundary is a score. Therefore, one can say that there must be some materiality there for us to set the boundary. And hence the computers, wires, pipes, and optical fibres all exist tangibly to generate and deliver the ‘0’s and ‘1’s. In a way, the ‘0’s and ‘1’s might as well be anything: apples and oranges, voltage above 5 volts and voltage below 5 volts, likes and dislikes. There is no meaning of data without asking what the data set is about.

Google app by Luis Herman

October 8th, 2014 | Posted by Cathy Li in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Google app by Luis Herman)

His project website:


App page: